Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has called for private investment in diamond mining, saying the country faced a real threat of being banned from dealing in the precious mineral because of the continuing chaos and looting at the diamond fields by the country’s armed forces.
A Kimberly Process team recently visited the country and gave the government a two-week deadline to demilitarize the diamond fields of Chiadzwa to end the looting and for the nation to start proper diamond dealing.
“Zimbabwe is likely to be banned from dealing with diamonds. That would then mean all the mines in the country that deal with diamonds will be stopped from operating.
“The Ministry of Mines has failed to meet the deadline of July 20, which we were given by Kimberly Process to put our house in order,” Tsvangirai told business people in Zimbabwe ‘s southern city of Masvingo.
“We are waiting for a decision from Kimberley Process and there is a possibility of us being stopped from dealing with diamonds anytime from now. It’s very true there is chaos and militarization of Chiadzwa; this is not the proper way of handling that mine.”
“The government should have put mechanisms to allow private investors to take over Chiadzwa Diamond fields,” he added.
Human rights groups have accused the nation’s armed forces of violently taking over the Chiadzwa diamond fields in eastern part of Zimbabwe and killing about 200 people since last year. Some victims of the clash were reportedly said to be buried in mass graves.
However, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who belongs to President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said if Zimbabwe is banned from mining diamond, this would have serious financial consequences to the economy which the government is battling to revive after a decade long damage caused by political bickering and economic mismanagement.
“It – suspension – will not solve anything. The country needs money and exports of diamonds would have helped a lot. It will only worsen things. The report’s conclusion was confrontational,” said Mpofu, adding that the government had not had enough time to act on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a 49-member body representing 75 diamond-producing countries.
The government denies there were “killings” in Chiadzwa.
During their visit early last month, the Kimberley Process team met with diamond diggers, their families, local residents, politicians and human rights activists.
Team leader, Kpandel Fiya, Liberia’s deputy minister of mines, was reported by several media as later telling Mpofu in a report the team had noted “unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities in and around Chiadzwa”.
“The team had documented wounds, scars from dog bites and batons, tears, and ongoing psychological trauma,” Fiya had said, drawing comparisons with Liberia, where diamonds fuelled a 15-year civil war.